The topic of friendship has been on my mind a lot lately. Early last year, I made a new friend. We got really close. We bonded over our love of plushies, and soon learned we had other things in common, such as having anxiety, autism, and our Christian faith. She is a very valuable part of my life. We started chatting nearly every day, with breaks in between. I enjoyed it. Though the past little while, I have been become to feel very exhausted with the constant chatting. As much as I still enjoyed it, it started to interfere with other things I needed to get done. I begun to feel overwhelmed with everything. Especially with the addition of family traumas and illnesses and general covid-19 exhaustion.
This has caused me to take a step back from the friendship. We are still friends but I have taken a step back from feeling like I need to say hi every day. I just let the message sit there until I have the mental and emotional energy to invest in taking the time to read it and respond to it.
This has allowed me time to think about and compare this to past moments of friendship in my life. When I was younger, I did not have many friends. I grew up the middle child of three girls, all relatively close in age, so they were like built in friends even though we also got on each others nerves a lot growing up. There were times that I felt like they were spending time without me. I think those times were times I most noticed how different I was, even though I did not yet know about autism.
In early elementary school, I kind of thought of all the girls in my class being my friend. In particular, certain girls. Or really any girl who would talk to me nicely. I had a friend in kindergarten and grade 1 who I knew from pre-school. As I got older, more girls would include me or try to include me in their games or activities at lunch and recess time. I did not really understand the rules of socializing and did not approach other girls myself, so I would walk around the school by myself if they did not approach me.
As I got older in grade 5 and 6, I had more of a defined group of friends and also soon learned that not all the girls in my grade got along with each other, and I had to pick a side. I could not just be friends with anyone who was “nice” to me. Though, maybe they were just playing nice to me. I could not really tell. I got my first official “best friend” in grade 6. We would hang out with each other all the time, doing crafts, and going for walks, playing with our gerbils…. It was nice.
Though, I usually felt I had to hide parts of myself when around friends. Until I felt like they would accept that part of me, I did not want to risk being vulnerable around them. When I got to grade 7, I met new friends and reconnected with some old ones at my new school. In high school, I started to get more comfortable having my own interests. Although, I still got nervous to share my new interests with others until I learned they liked them too. I had an amazing group of friends in high school, I felt I could be myself around them for the most part. Though there was a time when I started to feel like I wanted to share more of myself but nervous how they would take it. The biggest part of myself that I wanted to share but that I was nervous to share was when I got my autism diagnosis (Asperger’s Syndrome, in addition to Generalized anxiety disorder, Dysthymia and a mild language use disorder). I eventually blurted it out to them… though I do not know if they remember it as I do not talk about it much. I still count them as friends today even though we see each other maybe once a year, and now that two of them are moved further away, it may be even less than that going forward.
Friendship is so difficult for me. I have not developed good boundaries when it comes to friends. I tend to listen listen listen to friends and not say my own things because I am nervous how they will take it. There are times I have shared vulnerabilities and later feel very anxious because I revealed too much about myself. Even if they were very supportive of what I said, I might still feel like I revealed too much. But in particular, if I find they may not have understood me completely.
My preferred method of saying things is through the written word so I can express my whole thought. I like having time to think of what I am going to say.. which is why instant messaging type of chatting is difficult for me. I need time to think of what I will say and sometimes I need to give it a day to rest before responding again. I am still learning about myself and what works for me. Life is a journey of constantly re-evaluating what works for me and others. I want to be an advocate for autism but also am nervous about being too vocal about my diagnosis. I want to inspire others but also do not want all the attention.
In other news… we got much needed rain today!! After one of the hottest summers, we got our first major heat wave back in late June and July was super dry, barely any rain, and now we got much needed rain and the temperature is less than 20 degrees Celsius! WOOHOO!!! Praise God!
That’s all for now. Have a great day. – Heather